Cinemas are dead, don't you think?

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Philippe Gloaguen
@philippegloaguen
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I suppose that's an idea that runs through almost everyone's mind, but I thought it was best to put it in writing so that I could counter opinions.

A few months ago I wrote an article on the disappearance of paper newspapers, catalyzed by the pandemic but the consequence of a trend that cannot be ignored: not only do the new generations not conceive of going to newsstands to buy a newspaper (or a magazine, if it is for this) when everything can be found on the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, SnapChat… or the connections that arrive via WhatsApp, Telegram or one of the many messages that are waved on mobile phones.



It is not a question of discussing whether the information received is more or less qualified, or whether these new generations are formed by "titles" rather than by content. It is another debate, albeit perfectly valid and well founded.

It is about how digitization has progressively permeated society, like the humidity on the wall, not because it is invisible and less real. And how the affected industries have postponed the transformation as if it were not urgent or as if they were waiting, like a rabbit in the middle of the road, for the truck to leave at the last moment.

It goes without saying that this does not happen. The truck continues on its way and only in one corner of its consciousness does it notice a slight "bump" as it crushes the tiny obstacle.

Of course, that rabbit represents hundreds (thousands) of skilled and unskilled workers who have fallen into the transformation. Some saw it coming and did nothing, and others couldn't do anything because they have nowhere to go.


Let's not forget that behind all these dissertations there are human stories full of anguish, narrowness, difficulty and despair, because they can't get out of the hole.


But the reality is what it is. The cinemas are over.

Where do we come from

Cinema is an intermediary between the company that has a film and the viewer who wants to see it. For decades, the best screen, the best sound, the best experience, has been seeing it in a room with fifty or sixty other people.

But in recent years, cinema prices have not stopped rising, while the quality of films has not increased in parallel. They are still good, mediocre or bad, as they were in the beginning.

The experience has gotten worse too: popcorn, or potatoes, or soda, for the price of a five-star hotel, and far from striving for perfection: they can touch you salty, bland, stale, fluffy and - once upon a time - perfect.

The "industry" complains that people go to the cinema less and less, as if they have nothing to do (ah, what an easy VAT fault!) But "cinema day" arrives, with prices at less than half , and the queues that form could fill theaters for days.

I mean, the price is the problem. The "experience" of cinema has become a waste that makes it impossible to do in times of economic hardship.

The present: giant screens and sound system

In this long agony, where entrepreneurs expect administrations to solve the problem for them for people to go to the cinema (as if the product they teach, the prices they charge and the amenities they offer do not affect the behavior of the spectator.) Have been added several situations that clearly put them at a disadvantage.


On the one hand, television screens, a household appliance that everyone has in their homes, have grown in size as their prices fell, becoming more affordable for more people.


There will come a time when, in proportion, the screen we have at home compared to the distance from which we see it, will be larger than that of the cinema.

Increasing the size also improves the audio system it incorporates, and if not, the relatively affordable soundbars can transform our small living room into an experience - perhaps not comparable, but sufficient - to justify the movie at home.

And the pandemic has arrived

If there was already a growing disconnect between audiences and cinema, the Covid pandemic, sending everyone home for months, put us all in front of the television, with many hours ahead and the need to find audiovisual entertainment.

When we have lost the fear of locking ourselves in a room with fifty other people, we will have completely lost the habit, not only of going to the cinema (imagine in a room, wanting to see a movie while in the dark someone is just coughing ...) but to loosen up. the experience costs (not to mention driving, queuing, using a public bathroom, etc.)

Sure, there will be people who will continue to enjoy that experience, but, like a meteor entering the atmosphere, every week that passes more and more people lose that critical mass, resigning themselves to watching previews when they are available on their TV ... or not. .


Finally, streaming

We also talked about it here: the proliferation of platforms means that the audiovisual offer has reached levels never known before (and the article is obsolete because there are no later platforms such as HBO Max or Disney Plus, so the situation is even worse).

Obviously, the film and series production companies will not stop working because of the pandemic, they do their business. The films shot before the confinement could not be released in theaters (they were closed), after a few months of confusion, and when they verified that the situation would not go away in the short term, they reacted, deciding to skip the intermediation (the cinemas) and they use previews as an incentive for viewers to subscribe to their platforms.


Don't get me wrong, for the price of a movie ticket you get a one-month subscription to the most expensive platform, and you can subscribe to two of the cheaper ones (Disney Plus € 6,99 per month, Amazon Prime € 3 per month and Apple TV + € 4,99 per month).

If the "let's go to the movies" experience is four people, plus popcorn, soda, etc. the cost can be close to one hundred euros. I think it is not necessary to delve further into why, assuming that being in a locked room with fifty people for two hours is safe again, it will take a long time for customers to "loosen" their wallets to get back to the old habit. .

Who will survive?

For years the price of popcorn at the cinema has been justified because only the show theaters do not do business. This reasoning would be enough to justify that it was a business with no future. It is as if a hospital were to profit from the parking income.

Cinemas can go on like it's not their fault, asking for subsidies (I repeat? Ah, culture, that wild card), tax breaks and blaming copyright. After all, it's free.

But if someone really wants to have a movie business, what can they do? Only two ways come to mind:

Luxury always sells. You may not want to spend ten euros on a ticket and another ten on popcorn and a soda. But maybe I also want to spend forty on another dinner at the cinema (or dinner during the movie). Or a movie and a drink after ...

My audience will be smaller, but the income I get for each one will be higher. And much higher customer satisfaction. It is the experience that sells. I can watch the movie at home. I can make popcorn at home. What I can't have is experience. Offer me a well-designed one, and I'll surely be fond of it.

The neighborhood cinema. It is possible that one solution is for cinemas to return to neighborhoods. Smaller, more "flirtatious", but without having to take the car to go to the suburbs. A daily experience, for an adult audience who grew up with cinemas around the corner. As with newspapers, you have to think that the new generation has grown up watching the content on their screens, so either they offer them an incentive to go, or they will stay at someone's house to see something together.

On the “neighborhood” cinema you can see the history of Cinema Il Castello and this article about it. Conclusion: it is possible

I have no idea of ​​the cinema market. I may have said enormous nonsense, a product of my ignorance, trying to put myself in their shoes and think about what I would like as a user.

Whatever they do, cinemas are probably dead because we can live without them. Sometimes we will miss them, when we see a movie so spectacular that the TV screen gets too small, but just as we miss listening to vinyl records, slow dancing in nightclubs or being able to park on a street without having to take a car out. ticket. They simply disappeared.


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